Yaacov Agam, an Israeli sculptor and experimental artist, once said that, “my aim is to show the visible as possibility in a state of perpetual becoming.” This sentiment, along with his incredible kinetic sculptures that change as you move around them, fit perfectly with the research we had in mind when our Buildabridge team began working at Urban Promise this summer. Research has shown that adolescents often have a foreshortened view of the future and that the development of future self-concept is a protective factor that builds resiliency and positive self-image. Imagining yourself in the future can make you stronger as you face the challenges ahead.
Dizengoff Square Fountain, designed by Yaacov Agam. This fountain of “fire and water” moves as people move around it, revealing a variety of images.
We began to ask ourselves – how can an eighth grader explore the concept of perpetual becoming? And how can they see themselves as an agent of change?
We were drawn to a project that is inspired by Yaacov Agam’s work – the “agamograph.” It is a kinetic piece of art, which changes as you move around it (like a hologram). The artist begins by creating two images, then cuts them each into strips, glues the strips on a separate piece of paper, and then folds that paper like an accordion. When viewed from the side, the viewer sees one image. As they move from left to right in front of the piece of art, it transforms before their eyes and they see the second image.
In our opening circle, we asked the class to define ‘transformation’ and to list things that change. Their answers included how people change over time (both personality and age), how trees and plants grow, caterpillars transform to butterflies, seasons change, and many agreed that their mood changes when school is out for the day. This was the basis for their two images. Student work ranged from a seed that transforms to a flower, winter that turns to spring, caterpillars that transform to butterflies, emojis that transform from angry to laughing, and more abstract images that change in color and shape. The one pictured below represents a heart that is broken, and then mends.
One student who we will call Steven was extremely disengaged when we began the project. He relaxed when told he could return to coloring a mandala image, which he had enjoyed the week before. While coloring, he confided a conflict with some classmates noting that "some people are fake.” Upon processing and validation, he elected to draw an abstract representation of the change he observes in relationships over time. He drew one paper that had light colors and one with dark, and made it into an agamograph the following week.
Observing change around us may be the first step in recognizing the change within. The moment when students viewed their successful agamographs was a small moment of self agency and achievement, demonstrating that through your own work and imagination, you may be able to bring into existence something that surprises even yourself, and changes before your eyes.